This summer 14 Mason students and one intrepid faculty member went to Peru to learn about reproductive and maternal child health. The trip was sponsored by the Women and Gender Studies program sponsored this trip in collaboration with the Department of Global and Community Health.
The trip began in Lima, where the students visited several health facilities that offer maternity care. They also had the opportunity to speak in-depth with health care providers and a medical student and develop their understanding of how the health care system works. The group also visited Pachacutec, a neighborhood that began as an informal settlement on the outskirts of Lima that lacks basic infrastructure such as piped water. Here they met with community activists to hear about their experience in fighting for resources for their community and enjoyed a meal in one of their homes.
Peru is a country of contrast, with large differences in health and health care between urban and rural, indigenous and non-indigenous areas. To explore these contrast the group next travelled to Maska, a small town near the city of Pisac. In Maska the students stayed on an organic farm where they considered agriculture and food systems and their impact on public health. They also got to help out on the farm. Each student got to plant an indigenous plant as part of the farm’s efforts to promote the use of local plants, and they also learned how to make adobe clay and use it to make bricks.
Next the group headed to Cuzco, a city in the mountainous altiplano region of Peru where the population is largely indigenous. In Cuzco the group visited both public had private health care facilities and also had the chance to present a health education lesson at a local school. This was a highlight of the trip; the GMU students loved having the opportunity to meet and share their expertise with students in Peru.
Our final activity was a four days hike to Machu Picchu. For some students this was their first hike, and for most students it was the longest hike they ever completed. At the end of the longest day of the hike several students reported that they felt incredibly accomplished after completing such a tough day.
At the end of the trip students had the opportunity to reflect on their experience. Many students noted that the trip changed their perception of developing countries, and helped them view them in a more holistic way. Several also reported developing an appreciation for how Peruvians are working to improve their communities and society on their own, without outside involvement from developed countries.
The trip will be held again next year, and all interested students can contact Corrie Paeglow (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.
July 18, 2017